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How to Report Status on a
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by Rob Redmond

Your boss has asked you to take the lead on a project in your company. Maybe you
are a project manager, or maybe you are not. One thing is certain. Very few people
know how to report status on a project, even when they are expert project managers.
The basic problem? Most people do not understand the perspective of a manager
who is being pressed for information about a big project. Here are some basic rules
of reporting status that you can use to further your reputation as someone who
knows how to keep management and the project team informed and drive a project
to success.!

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The Management Perspective!
If your project is important, your boss will be pressed hard to keep his superiors
informed of its progress. Smart managers consume status on important projects
voraciously. Excellent status reporting means that managers are fully informed of
your projects health and overall direction without having to get involved themselves.
There is particular information your boss needs in order to show her boss that she is
on top of things and able to run the show effectively. Provide this information in a
way your boss can consume it on a regular basis, and you will fall upstairs so fast
your head will spin.!

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HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT

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chaotic cloud of information and distil it down into its most basic elements and then present them so that hundreds and thousands of hours of work can be understood in 30 seconds.! • Milestones: Your project has major accomplishments which must be completed by specific dates. We also want to help make that determination sometimes. This allows us to analyse the schedule and decide to either feel comfortable with it or challenge it.! Even on relatively less important projects. effective status reporting allows your boss to spend only a few seconds skimming your report to determine what sort of progress you have made. which ones are in progress. We managers want to see which milestones are complete. As managers.! ! To write excellent status.! HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT 2 . Your job as the manager of a project is to take a swirling. You might not know everything we know despite our best efforts to communicate.! • Issues: Your project also probably has one or more obstacles to completion which have been discovered. and which ones are coming up next. Your project might not be as healthy as you think it is. we want to be able to detect a project in trouble. We'd like to see brief details about each issue so that we can make a decision about whether or not to step in and help if necessary.! ! Excellent status creates clarity from confusion. you must understand:! ! • The three components of status! • How to write brief details! • What key data is needed by management! ! Three Components of Status! There are three major components to reporting project status:! ! ! • Overall: We need to see the overall project health.

My recommendation is that you write as though you were creating an old-fashioned telegram. or if I am in need of further details. Major milestones follow overall project health. I can read further and see what it is. so when I see a problem in your project schedule. crisp status that we can consume rapidly without having to spend much effort on it. Issues may be holding up those dates. If I like what I see here. It might take you thirty minutes to write your status. but to a supervisor with a team of project managers. Here are some suggestions:! ! • Write in bullets. There shall be no paragraph anywhere in your status. 40. I can stop reading the rest. but always remember that your manager does not have thirty minutes to spend reading it. More information about how to do that is coming. Really slick project managers report the issues in priority order showing the issue causing the most jeopardy to progress first. Writing "date: 7/4/2008" does not tell us anything that "7/4/2008" does not. We can see that 7/4/2008 is a date. it is not. There is enormous value in a project manager who can report status without narrative.! HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT 3 .! ! Brief Details! Your job is to report on the details of your project in concise.! ! "Brief Details" may seem oxymoronic to a project manager.! ! Brief Details?! How can you provide details without being long-winded? It is a formidable task that most never master. or even exponentially more projects for which they are responsible.! Organising Your Status! Just as you would clean a kitchen by starting up high and working your way down ultimately to the floor. Your manager realistically only has about 30 seconds to consume your status as they may have 30. not in prose.! ! Thus:! ! Overall project health comes first. I can read a little further and check out the scheduled dates we are driving toward and your progress on them. but it is not impossible.! • Avoid unnecessary use of titles and colons. project status is best when it starts off with the highest levels of detail and works it way down to lower and lower levels. 100. If I don't like the project health.

We don't want to carry your work for you.more on this in a future article).! ! HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT 4 . much) and avoid adjectives (good. and predict pitfalls you might face down the road.! • The number of days behind or ahead against the plan.! • The number of "normal issues" you face. I also want to see where we are against certain milestones so that I can make a decision about whether or not to get more involved.! • The % complete you are actually at. and reduce some more.! • The project identification number if your company uses a tool to store projects. Do your best to shorten all expressions and sentences. and the threat that project issues present. It lets us see your schedule at a high level. but we also don't want you to fall flat on your face. very.! • The overall project health (red yellow green .! • Reduce.! Key Data! Management will need certain data from you in order to see overall health.! • The % complete you expected to be at today (planned completion). For overall project health.! ! If I am your supervisor.! • The number of blocking issues you face (more about this later in this article).! • Avoid adverbs (really. I need to see more than just the overall health of the project. these data points might include:! ! ! • The project's name. determine if the schedule is acceptable as it stands. bad.! These data elements should provide a sound overview of project health for the average executive who is not details minded and is not interested in getting more involved in your project. reduce.! ! Providing project milestones is helpful in this regard. performance against milestones. One of the hardest things a manager has to do all day is decide whether to give you more room or get into your work with you. ugly).

it is a blocking issue and is very important. Of course the completed tasks are green." If the problem is stopping the project from moving forward and is single-handedly responsible for endangering the delivery date. The RYG status of the whole project is all that is necessary. They are complete! All following milestones have the same status as the current milestone.! • Issue name: this should be very descriptive and brief.! • Who has it: the name of the person who currently owns driving this issue forward. you will create more confusion than clarity.! • Priority or severity of the issue: your issue is mega-important if it is a "blocking issue.! HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT 5 . I don't believe that adds any value.! ! Issue Management! The final portion of your status report is to list the major issues your project faces. it is not as important.! ! It's best to start with the earlier tasks first and the final delivery date at the bottom. yellow. green (RYG) status for each milestone in their project. If you list them haphazardly.! • Date and time reported: we need this to see ageing. the more likely someone is going to get in trouble for not solving it faster. Important data that we need on your issues:! ! ! • Ticket number: if there is a ticketing system. so there is no point in differentiating them. If the problem is just another bug in some software that will be resolved in short order. The older an issue is. give us a link to the ticket or the number of the ticket.! Milestones have six components:! ! ! • • • • • • The milestone name! The percent complete of the milestone! The planned start! The planned finish! The actual start! The actual finish! Some people like to provide red.

the audience you select. the job is one of analysis and communication. If you cannot. and the content of your communications should be available to them easily and quickly. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" Provide a time and date for when the issue will be resolved.! ! HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT 6 . you should expect one of two results. Your job as a project manager is to create clarity from confusion for the project team and for management. either you are not sending it to the right people.! • ETA: Managers are like children and always want to know when they are going to get something. they provide status irregularly or rarely. It should not be necessary to create colourful slide shows or multi-page documents in order to provide really great status reports. Either management will become very quiet and not engage with you very much. Essentially. then provide an ETA for your next updated status on the issue.! ! A project manager that can status a project skilfully and briefly is a rare find. or worse.! ! Either result is better than the alternative: Management asking you for status.! • Current Activity: What is currently being done to resolve this issue? Are you firing up a conference call? Are you calling out for reinforcements from a particular group? What is being done to mitigate? Are there alternatives?! ! Expected Results! If you produce really great status on a project and provide it often enough and to the right people. If management is asking you for the status. and yet so many write as though they were authoring a novel and create a report that management must spend inordinate amounts of time with in order to get what they need. Many go that route and drown management in errata. If you cannot do that. then provide a time and date for when you will get to the next step in the issue resolution process. Narratives and prose are always unwelcome in status reports. which usually means they feel you are on top of the project and are capable of operating without their intervention. or you are not sending a good status report.! ! Management should be able to passively absorb your status without having to reach out to you to find out where things are at. or they will increase their communications with you in order to ferret out further details and determine if they need to intervene. Others fail to provide enough information at all. you are not sending it often enough. which are great topics for future articles. The pace at which you send it.

and political science as an undergraduate.! ! ! ! Rob Redmond studied sociology.In all of the project management training and certification systems available today. psychology. eventually receiving a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Georgia State University in June of 2000. Learn to status your projects effectively and you have a competitive edge that goes beyond the standard project management toolkit. and brings these concepts and basic management principles he has learned along the way to produce articles which reach out to others who struggle at work. He is currently employed as a manager in the information technology division of a large technology company.! ! HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT 7 . almost none teach how to report the current state and next steps of a project.! ! Rob has long years of experience with the Japanese language and the Japanese martial arts.

! ! More information about project management can be found on our website www.uk! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! Copyright © 2014 by Project Smart.projectsmart.About Project Smart! ! Project Smart is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. HOW TO REPORT STATUS ON A PROJECT 8 . All rights reserved.co. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds.